Article - Intermediate

Setting New Recruits up for Success: Organisational Onboarding using the Enneagram

By Kyra Wainstein | 3 June 2022 |
setting new recruits up for success


There is no question that organisations across the globe invest considerable time, effort, energy and resources in their recruitment processes. In today's complex and exceedingly competitive business environment, the focus is very squarely on finding the 'right' people with the 'right' skills to fill vacancies. For senior executives in organisations ranging from startups to large multi-national corporations, hiring 'good people' is one of their biggest challenges. However, most organisations seem to suffer from one fatal flaw in their recruitment plans: once they have the 'right' people with the 'right' skills, there is no considered or sufficiently comprehensive plan to set them up for success.

Many Human Resource and Development Practitioners will argue that onboarding is done in their organisations. Indeed, it may be - however, most research and evidence suggest that the type of onboarding being done in organisations is limited at best. Seemingly for most organisations, onboarding equates to a whip around the office to meet everyone, completing a series of forms and going through a PowerPoint presentation detailing the organogram.

When new employees enter an organisation with all the wonder and excitement that comes with a new job and don't get what they need, traction is lost almost immediately, and they are effectively set up for failure. In the best-case scenario, this loss of traction means that new recruits take a long time to settle in and start performing. In the worst-case scenario, this loss of traction means the new employees are likely to leave the company. In fact, today approximately one-third of all new hires leave their jobs after around six months.

The cost to the organisation in time, money and resources lost or wasted as a result of insufficient onboarding processes is incalculable. The question must be asked: what can organisations do to better prepare new recruits as they enter their new work environment?

While revamping existing onboarding initiatives to improve new hire retention rates will certainly some way towards setting new recruits up for success, we believe an entire rethink of onboarding is required. Our belief is that onboarding is more about figuring out how to fit new recruits into the existing culture and set them up for success. Given this, and the fact that different people may have different needs in the onboarding process, the Enneagram offers a useful lens for organisational onboarding.

Organisational Onboarding Reimagined

The latest trends in Organisation Development, HR and Change disciplines confirm this belief that the present way of onboarding is largely problematic. Among the many important developments in thinking and practice, the following stand out as significant:

  • In the past, employees would focus their learning on gaining the necessary skills for their careers. Today, the career itself is a journey of learning.
  • The employee experience, and specifically how constructive and engaging that experience is, has emerged as the new contract between the organisation and its employees.
  • Learning is no longer about compliance and regulation and should be an always-on experience that allow employees to build skills seamlessly, as required and on their own terms.

In today's highly complex and dynamic organisational settings, where the focus is on building a culture of continuous learning, adaptability, growth and personal development, a new recruit's entry into the organisation becomes a pivotal moment. How that individual is brought in to the organisational fold and nurtured is crucial for personal and organisational success and indicative of whether such a culture has taken hold in the organisation.

Still not convinced that effective onboarding is that consequential? Consider these statistics as evidence of just how pivotal this moment actually is:

  • the cost of replacing an employee can range from $5 000 to $15 000 depending on the scenario
  • 22% of staff turnover occurs within the first 45 days of employment
  • 91% of employees stay for at least a year (and of those, 69% stay for at least 3 years) when organisations have efficient onboarding program

So, what does all this mean for onboarding? There is a need for a reimagined, fresh spin on onboarding which recognizes it more as an ongoing process than a once-off event. Organisational onboarding reimagined, therefore, brings to organisations the possibility of customized, employee-oriented initiatives at a pace that aligns with the needs of the new recruit and the business without being expensive or onerous for the organisation.

How Enneagram Type and Instinct Can Flavour Onboarding

Different people have different needs in the onboarding process, which is easily seen through the lens of the Enneagram. We know that individuals who resonate with different Enneagram Types will be motivated to engage in a new working environment by different things. On the simplest level, understanding which type each new recruit resonates with offers insight into where the initial focus should be as that recruit enters the organisation:

Type Core Motivation Initial Focus in New Working Enviroment Onboarding Consideration
Ennea 1 Have to do the right/ good thing Likely to focus on acquainting themselves with the standard operating procedures, policies, and guidelines used in the organisation. As a point of departure, it might be useful to give Ennea 1 new recruits an opportunity to get their heads around the standards against which they will be measured and build their confidence around the 'right' ways to do things.
Ennea 2 Have to be liked and appreciated Likely to want to connect to the various stakeholders they will be working with and serving. Giving Ennea 2 new recruits the space to make connections, build relationships, and develop an understanding of the needs of their stakeholders will serve to them as they settle in their new roles.
Ennea 3 Have to outshine the rest Likely to want clarification of the 'rules of the game', the goals and expectations and how things will be measured. In making expectations transparent and then allowing them to make sense of what's the most efficient way to get things done, Ennea 3 new recruits are likely to want to be left to get on with things and make them happen.
Ennea 4 Have to be unique and authentic Likely to focus on gaining a genuine sense of what their unique contribution in the organisation will be. To help Ennea 4 new recruits settle into their space with authenticity, organisations can help them connect the dots between their unique value add and organisational success.
Ennea 5 Have to understand Likely to want access to organisational resources and repositories of knowledge. In giving them the opportunity to act as sponges, absorbing and learning as much as they can, Ennea 5 new recruits are likely to feel more settled as they become experts in their domains.
Ennea 6 Have to be safe and belong Likely to focus on connecting with others, becoming part of a community and finding colleagues to work alongside. By tapping in to Ennea 6 recruit's sense of belonging, they are likely to feel safe in their new environment and more open to engaging with the task at hand.
Ennea 7 Have to experience it all, avoid pain Likely to want to focus on the big picture and vision for both the organisation and their specific roles in the organisation As a starting point for Ennea 7 new recruits, it is very useful for them to get a sense of what is possible and to be given the opportunity to spend some time exploring the vision and possibilities.
Ennea 8 Have to be in control Likely to focus their attention on both the strategy and the goals and what is being done to achieve them Giving Ennea 8 new recruits a sense that things are under control and allowing them to get going with their work is likely to make them feel empowered to take charge of their space.
Ennea 9 Have to keep the balance Likely looking to connect to the rhythm of the organisation and find a sense of their alignment with this 'drum beat'. Initially giving the Ennea 9 new recruits some freedom to explore and wander around, will likely allow them to find their flow and support their ability to show up fully in the organisation.

In thinking about a new way of approaching the very important task of onboarding new hires in an organisation, you can see how useful it can be to leverage the wisdom of the Enneagram.

In addition to leveraging these Enneagram Types, the dominant Instinct of a person might also influence their needs and priorities when integrating them into the organisation in the following ways:

  • Those with a dominant Self Preservation Instinct are likely to appreciate an initial focus on workspace, providing resources, and the opportunity to 'settle in' and 'secure' their space.
  • Those with a dominant One-to-One Instinct may appreciate being given a mentor/guide with whom they can connect on a more personal level to understand that person's experiences of the organisation.
  • Those with a dominant Social Instinct are likely to want to know how and where they fit in and having the opportunity to navigate the people dynamics by meeting all key touch-points in the organisation.

Designing an Onboarding Program with the Enneagram in Mind

Ultimately owing to the dynamic nature of the Enneagram and the vast array of possibilities for its application in the onboarding process, it will beneficial both to new recruits and to the organisation as a whole. When you recognize that onboarding is an ongoing effort until new recruits are able to perform to the standards expected of them and achieve both personal and organisational performance expectations, the power of the Enneagram becomes undeniable.

By starting the onboarding efforts with insight into the new recruits' Ennea Types and dominant instincts, those leading the onboarding efforts can integrate this data into all components of the program, from establishing a 'buddy system' which connects people who resonate with the same type or dominant instinct or allocating mentors/coaches for new recruits according to type or instinct combinations, to coupling deep-dive, practical sessions or workshops to build functional and organisational expertise for both on-the-job application and personal development activities.

Ultimately, the Enneagram opens up a world of potential for development practitioners as they think about designing and developing onboarding programs that actually fulfill their intent - setting new hires up for success. Indeed, using the wisdom of the Enneagram and incorporating it into a robust onboarding program affords practitioners the opportunity to target individual, team and organisation development, all of which are critical to ensuring that new recruits find their space in the organisation and become productive, engaged employees as quickly as possible.


"I truly believe that onboarding is an art. Each new employee brings with them a potential to achieve and succeed. To lose the energy of a new hire through poor onboarding is an opportunity lost."
- Sarah Wetzel, Director of Human Resources at Engage: BDR

The reality is that organisations have just one chance to get onboarding right. One of the best ways to do so is to develop a robust onboarding program that leverages the Enneagram. By integrating an understanding of new recruits' Ennea types (for example), organizations are able to make the transition into a new organisation into a transformative experience. Such an approach provides for flexibility and ensures that any organisation, regardless of size and resources, can improve their current onboarding program and move towards a more effective approach.

Want to discover what drives and motivates you? Get your iEQ9 Enneagram Test